Taking A Stand In Business
Why what scares us might be so important
Business is scary. Many of us have watched some of the biggest and most prominent brands reduced to a mere fraction of their size in our lifetimes: Blockbuster, Kodak and Sears.
And every time we take a stand or position it seems that we risk losing or alientating a current or potential customer. With some of the biggest names in business struggling or failing, despite tons of sophisticated advice, it might seem that the answer is to not upset anyone. Logic would have it that more people in your potential client base would be better.
But not so fast. As the old saying goes “if you speak to everyone you speak to no one.” Similarly if you try to please everyone in reality you please no one (at least not fully).
If we want to speak to our customers and potential customers, and have them love us, we actually do have to take a position. We have to take a stand on something.
There are many ways that taking a stand benefits us. As the proponent of Do Business Differently™ — where I challenge my clients and audiences to be different in business — I’ve spent a lot of time studying the effects of taking a stand on business.
Let’s dig into it and see what the scary step of taking a position, particularly an unpopular one, might mean for your business. We’ll start by looking at two experiments I have done followed by looking at the lessons from my experiments and the lessons my clients and others that I have drawn together.
My First Accidental Experiment
My first big experiment in taking a stand happened by accident. I was working in a job and my supervisors asked me to do something I didn’t feel I should because I thought it would be wrong and bad for the client involved. After much reflection with a colleague involved in the situation alongside me we decided that we had to take a stand.
And when we took a stand so much changed. We knew we did the right thing and we had a good feeling from that. But that didn’t make things easy. Suddenly several of my bosses no longer liked me and it would alter the direction of my career forever.
After that seismic shift, however, things started to change. Many people who I had had limited contact with — powerful people — started to connect with me. They liked that I did what was right and I had gained their respect.
New opportunities came and new doors were opened.
I learned that taking a stand can have it’s plusses despite the minuses.
My First Big Intentional Experiment
As time went on I remained myself but often fell into the trap of trying to take a middle of the road positions to please others. It’s very tempting to feel the harmony of not taking a stand.
My law firm was growing but I was starting to see a tension. I was getting invited to speak on more and more stages and my advisors, at the time, were working hard to get me into the image of a standard corporate lawyer. Outfits, photos, etc. to show everyone just how well I fit the image of the lawyer you’d see on TV.
And this was all well and good except for one thing. As much as I looked like every other lawyer and maybe, arguably, I looked more like a lawyer than every other lawyer (because I had been groomed so well into an image) I wasn’t like every other lawyer. Often when I exited that stage at a conference I would hear “you aren’t like any other lawyer.”
My crowds were seeing something in my speeches that my image wasn’t portraying.
Meanwhile around the same time I started wearing unusual suits for a few Christmas parties. People loved them and snapped a lot of photos. This lead to me trying out the concept of wearing unusual suits regularly. Soon the words “Do Business Differently™” took hold.
A message that had always been in my work and speeches — that each of us should embrace our uniqueness in business — now had a visual and a message. Even so it didn’t make everything easy.
Some of my friends, clients and potential clients didn’t like the “crazy suits” as much. They left. But some people understood being unique and different. They understood the message served them (not me) and the Do Business Differently™ movement gained a visual — and momentum — it still has today.
It wasn’t easy to take that stand. But it still pays dividends to this day.
With that let’s go a little deeper into why you might want to take a stand and the benefits of taking a stand.
People Believe You
Probably the greatest thing about taking a stand on something that matters is that people will start to believe you. And they won’t just believe you on that one matter. They’ll start to believe you on many things.
There are a lot of people today that say what they think other people want to hear from them. Whether it’s politically correct statements, standard advice or going with the majority on everything, it seems there are a lot of people there that don’t take a stand.
Because this is the case people often take notice when you take a stand. They know you aren’t just following the pack or doing what everyone else is doing when you stake out a position. And you’ll find a lot of people feel a lot more confidence in your other positions when you take a stand on something difficult.
They Know Who You Are
Another benefit of taking a stand is that people, through your stand, know who you are. Not only do they believe you but they also feel they know you. Your stand shows them what you are made of and what you believe.
And in today’s business world authenticity sells. People want to do business with people they understand because they are scared of those that are hiding who they are.
Yes, it’s scary to exclude and walk away from some people. But it’s powerful to connect with those you are meant to serve. And by letting people know who you are you will attract more of your customers.
Even big brands are taking positions and driving away customers. You can brave it and do it too.
You Gain Respect
Not only do you gain trust and sort for customers that match with you when you take a stand you also gain respect. Many customers and potential customers will respect the core bravery involved in taking a stand.
When I wear my unusual suits to an event you might be surprised by the number of people that approach me. And many of them say some version of “you are very brave to wear that suit. I don’t have the nerve but I respect you do.” (wording adjusted to be family friendly.)
People respect those that can polarize. It’s not easy to take a stand. Others know it. Many will respect you for the mere act of being who you are.
You Look Like You Are In It For More Than Money
Although financial benefits may accrue from taking a stand you they are usually down-stream effects. The normal effect of taking a strong stand is a short-term hit. Being willing to take a short-term hit shows others that you are taking positions for more than money.
Everyone gets that business is driven by money. But there’s also a lot more to life than money. Once I was in a conference room full of great salespeople and the speaker asked “would you work more hours for more money?” No one raised their hand. The point was that everyone in that room wanted more from life than money.
The signal to others that you stand for more than money reinforces the other messages that you are sending by taking a stand.
Your Tribe Strengthens
Most of the people that are following you will be inspired by the strength you show by taking a position. In turn they will feel more aligned with you and your tribe will strengthen. This in turn will give you a deeper following and fan base.
Followers don’t want to follow the weak and when you take a strong stand more people will want to follow and engage with you.
You Can Do This
All of this to say you might be scared, at first, to take a stand. But it’s actually a good thing. Taking a stand separates you from the crowd. It shows who you are. It shows that you know how to Do Business Differently™.
Look around you. Most of the successful you see today have taken a stand at some point. It’s a key to success.
You next big upleveling starts with you showing who you are.
Are you ready? Can you do it? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and opinions.
**NOTE: Any discussion of legal ideas in any of my public facing materials is not legal advice. You must consult counsel to get legal advice based on your facts and circumstances. Do not rely on the content of this message without consulting a lawyer. No attorney-client relationship is formed by this content (video, blog, etc.) Unless you have retained my firm and I have specifically acknowledged I am your lawyer you should not rely on any of my statements as legal advice.**
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the man you call when you want a keynote, training or a consultant to get your business ready for The Future of Business. He’s the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show and a long-time business attorney. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.